CPIC continues looking into the build up to the Cricket World Cup with an indepth look at the Pakistan Squad!…
After a disappointing showing in their One Day Series with England, it was inevitable that Pakistan would make some changes ahead of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. The squad has now been finalised and we now know the 15 men charged with winning Pakistan’s first world title in this format since 1992.
Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir and Asif Ali have been called up at the expense of Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf and Junaid Khan who all experienced poor showings in those ODIs. Can these men lead Pakistan to cricketing glory once again or will the nation need to wait another four years for the chance of major silverware?
Man in Charge
Despite that 4-0 loss to England, the question of captaincy was never likely to be in doubt. Sarfaraz Ahmed remains at the helm and he has the challenge of guiding what is a fairly youthful squad to World Cup success. The 31 year old deserves his place in the squad based on his batting and wicket keeping but there are some neutral pundits who question his leadership skills.
Sarfaraz isn’t a patient man and if there are any lapses in bowling and, in particular, fielding, he lets his players know about it. His frustration is clear to see and that’s not always a good thing. Depending on the player in receipt of his displeasure, they can either be inspired to respond or, they can feel the pressure which leads to further mistakes. The captain is a pivotal part of any team but Sarfaraz Ahmed will have to be careful in regard to his emotions at the 2019 World Cup.
The good news for Pakistan fans is that the majority of their batsmen found form in that One Day International series with England. On these fast, flat surfaces, batters will need to score big and it’s positive to see big totals in three of those four completed matches.
Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq all made centuries so there should be no concerns at the top of the order. Overall, this is a strong set of batsman who should complement each other well as the World Cup develops. Sides need to have a good balance of power hitting and patient accumulation and that’s exactly what Pakistan possess here.
Of the opening pair, Fakhar Zaman scores quickly and will therefore provide the fireworks at the top of the innings. At the other end of the wicket, Imam-ul-Haq is a more patient player who has the ability to bat all the way through the 50 overs. Together they combine well and can frustrate opposition bowlers with their different styles.
Babar Azam can also score at a good pace, as evidenced by his 115 from 112 balls in the fourth ODI at Trent Bridge. He’s now scored nine centuries in this form of the game and with an exceptional average of over 50, Babar is in line to be Pakistan’s leading run scorer in this tournament.
Elsewhere, our hearts go out to Asif Ali following the passing of his daughter and we hope he is in a good place, mentally, when the World Cup begins. Asif may not be a guaranteed starter but he can help to boost totals in the middle order.
Winning a World Cup requires a mix of qualities but at some point, your squad must contain experienced players who have seen it all before. That’s the case for Pakistan as we reach the middle order where we find Shoaib Malik and Mohammed Hafeez.
They have a combined age of 75 and between them, Shoaib and Hafeez have scored more than 13,500 ODI runs. If the top order is dismissed cheaply, their role is to steady the innings and take it to an acceptable total. That experience, earned over nearly 500 ODIs, will be invaluable to Pakistan in 2019.
An Obvious Return
Few neutral observers were surprised when Mohammad Amir was called up to the final World Cup squad. The left armer has no form to speak of but the selectors will recall the role he played when Pakistan won the ICC Champions Trophy in England just two seasons ago.
In the final itself, Fakhar Zaman rightly won the Man of the Match award for his century but it was Amir’s left arm swing that destroyed India’s reply. He removed Rohit Sharma third ball and followed up with the key wickets of Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. While he might be in the final squad on reputation rather than form, if Mohammad Amir can replicate that type of performance then Pakistan just might be in with a chance.
Bowlers Under Pressure
The selectors recognised that their bowling had underperformed in those One Dayers with England and that’s why Amir and Wahab Riaz were called up at the last minute. It was particularly surprising to see Wahab come in for Junaid Khan, particularly as the returning seamer hasn’t played an ODI for two years but the selection committee felt they had to act.
England will be setting up surfaces to suit their new style of play that sees them attack the ball in any situation. There will be flat, hard tracks and if there are clear, sunny skies, we’re set to see big totals and a number of World Cup batting records will tumble.